Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  1.  Iran is a country of significant political and economic importance for the UK because of its influence in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, its central strategic position, and its key role in regional security. Iran has 9 per cent of world oil reserves and 15 per cent of gas reserves, and is our fifth largest export market in the Middle East. Its population (65 million) is the largest of any country in the region.

  2.  In New York in September 1998 the Foreign Secretary agreed with his Iranian counterpart to exchange Ambassadors, following the public assurance by Foreign Minister Kharrazi that the Iranian Government would not take any action to threaten the life of Salman Rushdie, and would not encourage anybody to do so. This paved the way for our current policy of constructive engagement with Iran. We look to progress towards the establishment of a civil society with full protection for the rights of minorities. The emergence of a well-run, diversified and dynamic market economy should support such progress, and contribute to a healthy bilateral economic relationship. The benefits of constructive engagement are reflected in major programmes of cooperation in the field of drugs and refugees, initiated by the UK in Iran. However, as part of the developing relationship with Iran, we also engage the Iranian Government on issues of concern to us, including human rights, weapons of mass destruction and Iranian support for terrorism.



  3.  As a result of the revolution there was a complete transformation in the UK's relations with Iran. Iran changed from a co-operative ally to a country distrustful of and at times hostile to the West. The UK's close association with the Shah made the revolutionary Government of the new Islamic Republic of Iran particularly distrustful of the UK. The absence of an authoritative administration in the aftermath of revolution, and Iranian attempts to export the revolution, created instability and uncertainty in the region. There was a significant fall in British exports, although some trade continued, and as Iranian oil production dropped there were shortages in the oil market.

  4.  Britain recognised Bazargan's provisional government in February 1979, hoping that it would establish stability. After its fall in November 1979, the cultural and political antagonism of Iran's new leaders towards Britain increased. The fact that the United States and Britain had sold arms to Iran and thereby, in the opposition's eyes, propped up the Shah's regime, came under criticism. The occupation of the American Embassy, in November 1979 set off a chain of events which led to the Iranian Government being unable to guarantee the safety of the British Embassy. All but a skeleton staff were withdrawn in September 1980 and the Embassy was put under the protection of Sweden.

  5.  The British Interests Section within the Swedish Embassy was gradually expanded, and Iran continued to have an Embassy in London headed by a Charge d'Affaires. By 1985 relations had improved. There were no longer Britons in jail in Iran on charges of spying, and since the release of British helicopter pilot Andrew Pyke in January 1982 the government had pursued a policy of practical co-operation which had met with some response, particularly with regard to trade. British policy of strict neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war had also been noted. The Iranian regime was divided in its attitude to Britain. It came under attack from radical elements for any perceived sliding towards the West, and traditional distrust of Britain's role in the region was revived, but up to 1985 more pragmatic elements gradually had their way. The British Government sought to persuade the Iranian regime that it was in its interests to respect international conventions (for example on human rights and terrorism), to accept a peaceful settlement of the war with Iraq, and to curb attempts to export revolution.

  6.  The detention of British citizens Roger Cooper and Nicholas Nicola in December 1985, without trial or proper consular access, was accompanied by a political campaign against Britain and renewed problems with bilateral relations. A new low was reached in may 1987 when the arrest of a member of the staff of the Iranian Consulate in Manchester on charges of shoplifting led to the retaliatory abduction in Tehran of the Embassy Head of Chancery, Edward Chaplin. All staff were eventually withdrawn from Tehran.

  7.  In the summer of 1988, Iran accepted Security Council Resolution 598 calling for a ceasefire in the Iran/Iraq war. The Iranian government began to tone down its revolutionary fervour, to concentrate on reconstruction and economic development, and to present a more reasonable face to the outside world. Within this new policy framework, Iran sought to re-establish a more stable relationship with the UK.

  Encouraging Iran's new wish to improve its relations with the West was strongly in British interests. The Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe met Iranian Foreign Minister Velayati in New York in September 1988, and in November 1988 agreement to resume full diplomatic representation was announced. It was made clear that the issue of Cooper's detention and the British hostages held in Lebanon by groups under Iranian influence placed restrictions on our broader relationship, and that we expected the Iranian government to work for their release.


  8.  However on 14 February 1989, a statement from Ayatollah Khomeini that the author of "The Satanic Verses" and the publishers who had known the book's content were condemned to death led to a deterioration in relations. The following day the 15 Khordad Foundation offered to pay a reward to anyone who killed Salman Rushdie. EC Foreign Ministers decided to withdraw their Heads of Mission from Tehran and imposed a ban on high level visits. The British Government went further and withdrew all UK-based staff, leaving the Swedish Embassy to look after British interests once again. The Iranians were requested to remove their Embassy from London and nominate a protective power. In March 1989 Iran severed diplomatic relations with the UK, on the basis that Britain had not taken action to prevent insults to Islam and Islamic sanctities. The Satanic Verses was published at a time when radicals within the Iranian regime were unhappy at Iran's improving relations with the West, and felt that the revolution was at risk. It offered an opportunity to break relations with the UK and made it difficult for any political group to oppose such a move given its significance as an Islamic issue.

  9.  The absence of diplomatic relations left the British Government with little opportunity to advance important interests, in particular the release of Roger Cooper and the hostages in Lebanon. We looked for ways of bridging the gap between the Iranians and ourselves. The Iranians also quickly began to look for ways to restore relations, rightly seeing their difficulties with Britain as an impediment to normal economic relations with the European Community. The release of Brian Keenan in August 1990 led to the breaking of the deadlock. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the consequent crisis in the Gulf also made it desirable for Britain and Iran, both of whom had roles to play in resolving it, to re-establish substantive dialogue. Diplomatic relations were resumed in September 1990, on the basis of our understanding from public statements by Iranian officials that the Iranian government would not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country (a reference to the Rushdie case). However, the British Government made it clear that it considered the fatwa a serious violation of international law, and that we would not be thinking of sending an Ambassador to Tehran until outstanding bilateral problems had been resolved.

  10.  Following the release of the remaining hostages in the Lebanon in 1991 (in which the efforts of Iran were crucial), and the release of Cooper, we made some practical improvements in bilateral relations such as the opening of a limited visa service in Tehran. We initiated a dialogue to try to resolve the problem of the fatwa against Mr Rushdie, including annual meetings between the Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister Velayati at the UN General Assembly in New York. Baroness Chalker, Minister of State for Overseas Development, made a humanitarian visit to Iran to see what help we could give to Iraqi refugees. We hoped that closer ties would enable us to encourage moderation in Iranian policies, and that there would be scope for fruitful co-operation on issues such as refugees, Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time we worked to contain Iran's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and involvement in terrorism in co-operation with our EU partners.


  11.  In December 1992 the EU (then the EC) declared its desire for what came to be called a Critical Dialogue with Iran, believing that outstanding problems could more easily be resolved if we talked. In particular we sought assurances of Mr Rushdie's safety, and an improvement in Iranian policy on human rights and terrorism. Thereafter regular meetings were held between the EU Troika and Iran, once a year at Ministerial level and once every Presidency at Deputy Minister level. The EU believed that the isolation of Iran would not help to achieve our objectives and could be counter-productive, and therefore strongly opposed measures taken by US Congress to improve an international trade embargo through the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. (This difference was largely resolved by the agreement brokered by the British EU Presidency in May 1998 between the EU and the US Government, whereby the US agreed to consider waivers for EU oil and gas companies doing business with Iran).

  12.  Mykonos. In April 1997 a German Court issued its verdict on the Mykonos case, in which a member of the Iranian intelligence service was indicted for the murder of four Iranian Kurds in Germany in 1992. The verdict stated that the leadership in Tehran had issued instructions leading to the murders. The Critical Dialogue was suspended and EU Heads of Mission were recalled from Tehran for consultation.

  13.  However, the election of President Khatami with a large majority in May 1997 gave us a chance to re-engage Iran and achieve a more constructive relationship. We welcomed Khatami's determination to pursue the establishment of civil society and the rule of law, and his interest in promoting wider international understanding, and believed that his government was likely to bring about positive change in those areas of Iranian policy which continued to concern us. We sought to encourage the process of reform by increasing the level of bilateral and EU dialogue with Iran. EU Heads of Mission returned to Iran in November 1997. Under the UK presidency from January to June 1998, the EU initiated a review of policy towards Iran and in July 1998 the first round of a new comprehensive dialogue between the EU and Iran was held in Tehran.


Internal Situation

  14.  The Sixth Majles convened on 27 May, following elections in which reformists succeeded in gaining 190 of 290 seats. They pledged themselves to a programme of political, social and economic reform. A key test of their ability to effect reform was a debate planned for 6 August on the revision of the restrictive press laws imposed by the previous, conservative Majles, which helped trigger the closure of over 20 reform newspapers in May 2000. This amendment was a key pillar of the reformist pre-election manifesto. Supreme Leader Khamenei used his constitutional powers to block the discussion, and urged the Majles to concentrate for now on economic reform. The intervention proved a serious blow to the reform programme, and brought into sharp relief the nature of democracy in Iran. Further newspaper closures and arrests of journalists followed. Several days of unrest broke out on 24 August in the western city of Khorramabad when hardline vigilantes disrupted a student convention that had been authorised by the reformist Minister of the Interior. Reformist parliamentarians appealed to all students to respond calmly to violent provocation.

  15.  President Khatami reacted cautiously to the conservative challenge, nevertheless expressing his disapproval of the suppression of the Majles press law debate and the clampdown on the reformist press. In a public statement in late August he regretted his lack of control over the judiciary and certain elements of the security forces, but reiterated his commitment to push through reform, and his determination not to resign in the face of limitations to his authority. But President Khatami risks radicalising the losing the support of an electorate disappointed by the slow pace of reform.

  16.  The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO), the dominant group of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), continues a campaign of terrorist attacks against the regime in Iran. The MKO is based in Iraq and, having fought on the Iraqi side in the Iran-Iraq war, lacks a popular base in Iran. Both the MKO and NCRI feature on the US State Department list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

Foreign Policy

  17.  Iran has sought since President Khatami's election to ease its international isolation. President Khatami has made the centrepiece of his foreign policy the Dialogue of Civilisations. His aim is to promote greater understanding between the Islamic and Western worlds. Relations with Gulf neighbours are now well established, although a territorial dispute with UAE over Abu Musa and the Tunb Islands remains unresolved. President Khatami's government is committed to an improved relationship with the EU, and he has paid official visits to France, Germany and Italy. But relations with the US remain frozen in the face of opposition from some on both sides to the opening a dialogue, although a meeting in September between Majles Speaker Karroubi and US Congressmen in New York may be a signal that both sides are willing to explore the conditions under which relations could improve.

  18.  Iran maintains a dialogue with her Central Asian neighbours. Her interests in the region centre on the Caspian Sea and the division of its resources. Iran shares our concerns about the situation in Afghanistan and influence of the Taliban, and continues to take a positive approach to achieving peace there. The recent OIC peace initiative was launched under their Presidency. Iran is also active in the battle against drug trafficking from Afghanistan.

A Prosperous Market Economy

  19.  Iran is a diversified economy with a good workforce and substantial natural resources. It is OPEC's second largest oil producer; oil revenues are still by far the main source of foreign exchange and the backbone of the state budget. Iran has the second largest reserves of natural gas in the world; it also has large mineral resources in addition to oil and gas. It has the potential to develop into a fast-growing and powerful Emerging Market, important to the wider regional economy and commercially very significant to the UK.

  20.  But economic performance in the past 20 years has been disappointing. Living standards have deteriorated. The population continues to grow rapidly and unemployment is a growing problem. The economy has been performing poorly because it has been handicapped by such things as the ownership of many productive assets being in the hands of the state or the post-revolutionary Foundations; high public spending on food and petroleum product subsidies; distorted exchange rates and protectionist trade rules; and some institutionalised antipathy to the private sector.

  21.  In addition Iran's external economic and financial relations have been complicated by US sanctions. These have increased the cost of Iran's access to oil technology, denied US firms the opportunity to invest in Iran, and blocked various commercially viable schemes for pipelines transiting Iran. Sanctions have also created difficulties in Iran's debt management, its relations with the IMF and World Bank, and its relations with non-US foreign investors. But they have not been the main reason for poor economic performance.

  22.  Under President Khatami Iran has begun to move away from interventionist and nationalistic economic policies. Some important reforms have been put in place—notably the opening of the oil and gas sector to foreign investment—and more have been under discussion, most urgently in 1998-99 when low oil prices put the economy under additional pressure. The Third Five Year Plan which took effect in early 2000—and indicates the Government's medium term economic policy—contains reformist commitments in a number of key areas and is a blueprint for radical change towards a market based economy.

  23.  In practice the speed at which economic reform is pushed ahead is likely to depend on the degree of support in the Majles. The prospects for more rapid progress appear therefore to have improved following the elections in spring 2000.

  24.  Economic reform is the key to faster growth, increasing prosperity, and the creation of sufficient jobs for the expanding workforce. The UK supports the efforts of the Iranian Government to achieve reform. It welcomes international involvement in the Iranian economy and favours a normal relationship between Iran and the IMF and IBRD. The UK supported the two World Bank loans to Iran. It welcomes the involvement of UK firms in trade with and investment in Iran, and limited medium term ECGD cover was recently resumed.


  25.  When the Foreign Secretary met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi at the UN General Assembly in September 1998 they agreed to the exchange of Ambassadors, following the public assurance by Kharrazi that the Iranian government would not take any action to threaten the life of Mr Rushdie or anybody associated with his work, and would not encourage anybody to do so. Dr Kharrazi also dissociated the Iranian Government from the bounty on Mr Rushdie's life. This represented the achievement of the necessary assurances on Mr Rushdie's safety that we had long sought. (Joint Statement attached).

  26.  The agreement reached in New York paved the way for more constructive engagement with Iran. Our governments established Ambassadors in each others' capitals in May 1999 as agreed, and the two Foreign Ministers met again in New York in September 1999. They agreed that there should be an exchange of visits by Foreign Ministers. Dr Kharrazi visited London in January 2000 and held meetings with the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. A Joint Declaration was agreed on future cooperation. Mr Raynsford, Minister of State for Housing and Construction at the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions visited Iran from 14-18 July. Mr Caborn, Minister of Trade, is due to attend the Tehran International Trade Fair in early October.

  27.  On 15 September the Foreign Secretary again met his Iranian counterpart in New York. The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed UK's commitment to a constructive dialogue with Iran aimed at encouraging and supporting reform. He also welcomed Dr Kharrazi's suggestion that he visit Iran in 2001 as part of the year of dialogue of civilisations.

UK Interests in Iran

  28.  The UK has an interest in a stable Iran, enjoying good relations with neighbours and near neighbours, thus acting as a force for stability in the region. Reform within Iran is likely to lead to further progress towards full democracy, freedom of speech and a more stable political climate with full enforcement of the rule of law and an end to extra-judicial violence. We would welcome progress towards the establishment of a civil society with full protection for the rights of minorities, particularly the Bahais.

  29.  The emergence in Iran of a well-run, diversified and dynamic market economy, fully integrated in the global economy will contribute to a healthy bilateral economic relationship. Iran is potentially a large and lucrative market for UK investors and exporters. A prosperous Iran will be in the interest of all its neighbours and contribute to regional economic stability.

Trading Relations

  30.  Iran is an important market for UK capital goods manufacturers. It has 9 per cent of the world's oil reserves and gas reserves second only to Russia. We estimate that up to half of UK exports to Iran are for the oil and gas sector. Other significant sectors include power, petrochemicals, healthcare, mining, agriculture/food processing, water, telecommunications and the automotive industry.
19951996 19971998 19992000
UK exports (£m)332 396395331 244154.3*
UK imports (£m)125 1183636 36.518*

  (* 2000 figures are Jan-July only)

  31.  In the league table of exporters to Iran the UK is behind Germany, Italy, Japan and France. Our exports have been hindered by bilateral political differences and the lack of ECGD cover. However, our export figures do not show the significant re-exports via Dubai and Oman. The reduction in UK exports to Iran in 1999 is attributable to Iran's economic difficulties caused by the low oil price earlier in the year.

  32.  Strategically placed, with a growing well educated populace of 65 million and a neighbouring market place of 200 million plus, Iran's commercial potential within this region is considerable. With the combination of the planned reforms by President Khatami's government plus the upsurge in the price of oil, there is evidence of a growing interest in Iran by British companies. This year alone, Trade Partners UK's promotional programme will be supporting five outward trade missions and three exhibitions. This compares to three and two respectively in previous years.

  33.  The oil and gas sector is by far Iran's largest industrial sector. A number of UK companies such as British Gas, Enterprise, LASMO and BP are actively pursuing major business interests currently offered by the Iranian authorities under a "buy back" scheme. Shell Exploration, an affiliate of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, has already been awarded a project under this scheme to develop two oil fields at a total cost of $800 million. Similar projects have also been awarded to our EU competitors.

  34.  Limited medium term ECGD cover has recently been resumed. The position will be reviewed at the end of the year in the light of progress on a number of issues, including resolution of pre-revolutionary debts. A bilateral Road Transport Agreement has been agreed but not yet signed. Negotiations on an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement continue.

Specific Bilateral Cooperation

  35.  The UK has, since September 1998, initiated major programmes of cooperation with the Iranian government against drugs trafficking, and assistance with the refugee problem. These both were identified by the Iranian government as areas of pressing need, where we agreed with them that problems with an important international dimension were being addressed by Iran with too little international help.

  36.  Drugs. Iran is a key country on the heroin route from Afghanistan to Europe. Iran makes a vigorous effort against the drugs trade, with estimated seizures of 233 tonnes of opiates in 1999, the highest in the world. They have effectively eradicated illicit domestic opium poppy cultivation and the US has recently certified Iran as a non-producer country. But this has been at a cost: close to 3,000 Iranian border guards have died in the past 20 years in clashes with the heavily armed Afghan drug convoys which cross Iran. 36 Iranians were killed in one such clash on 2 November 1999.

  37.  In 1999, the FCO contributed £1.35 million to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme's (UNDCP) Iran programme. This included £350,000 to UNDCP in March 1999 to provide Iranian frontier personnel with 1,020 bullet proof vests (agreed for export as an exception to the embargo by Mr Battle and announced in a written answer on 25 March) and a £1 million contribution to the law enforcement component of the UNDCP programme mainly to support Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has been used to purchase 50 Land Cruisers and night vision equipment (produced in Iran). We also pledged £150,000 bilateral assistance to focus on the western land border exist controls with Turkey and airport controls, which will assist in combating the onward drugs trade to Europe. The Foreign Secretary announced in New York in September 2000 a further £500,000 contribution to the UNDCP programme. We intend shortly to conclude a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government on cooperation against drugs trafficking.

  38.  Refugees. Iran currently hosts an estimated 1.4 million refugees from Afghanistan, and an estimated 500,000 refugees from Iraq. Combined, these numbers represent one of the largest refugee problems faced by any country in the world. When the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visited Tehran in November 1999 he announced that the Department for International Development had approved funding of £700,000 for a selection of refugee projects including primary health care and education services, through UNICEF and a variety of NGOs. DFID are continuing their refugee programme with further projects in the current financial year at a similar level to last year, when projects totalling £1.4 million were approved.

Continuing Concerns

  39.  In developing our relationship with Iran, we have made clear to the Iranian Government that there remain a number of important concerns for the UK over Iranian policies. These include weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism.

(i)  Weapons of Mass Destruction

  40.  In July 2000 Iran successfully tested a medium range ballistic missile, Shahab III. We remain concerned that this project could lead to the production of a missile capable of carrying WMD warheads. Although Iran is a party to key arms control treaties (notably the NPT and the Chemical Weapons Convention) and is actively engaged in the international arms control process, there are persistent reports of continuing Iranian efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. Iran's civil nuclear programme, which it is alleged masks an illegal nuclear weapons programme, has been in existence since the time of the Shah. Iran has admitted developing chemical weapons in response to missile and CW attacks by Iraq during their war. The UK has a bilateral dialogue with Iran on non-proliferation issues. The annual report on strategic export controls gives details of current commitments the UK maintains in respect of export licencing to Iran. These include an embargo on the sale of all items in the military list, and any item which might be used by the Iranian armed forces.

(ii)  Human Rights

  41.  The UK remains concerned about several human rights issues in Iran, as outlined in the most recent annual report by the UN Special Representative for Iran, Maurice Copithorne. These include opaque and unfair judicial procedures, the continued use of inhumane punishments, the excessive use of the death penalty, attacks on freedom of speech including a recent crack-down on the reformist press, and discrimination against women and minorities. However, we also recognise that the government of President Khatami has made improvements in a number of these areas, and that his programme for the establishment of the rule of law and a civil society would, if fully implemented, remove many of our concerns. The most recent resolution passed at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April (tabled by the EU) recognised progress, but drew attention to the remaining areas of concern. Most notably, we and our EU partners have expressed our concern to the Iranian authorities over continuing persecution of the Baha'i minority, and the detention, trial, and sentencing on 1 July of 10 Jews and two Muslims to prison terms of between four and 13 years for alleged espionage offences. On appeal these were reduced (on 21 September) to sentences of between two and nine years. Although a step in the right direction, we remain concerned by their conviction. The Foreign Secretary recently raised the case with the Iranian Foreign Minister in New York on 15 September.

  41.  We have long sought to move towards a more engaged dialogue with the Iranian government on human rights issues, but, in common with our EU partners, have insisted that this should be on the basis of renewed cooperation with the UN human rights machinery (as we expect of all States). Specifically this means renewed cooperation with the UN Special Representative Maurice Copithorne and a resumption of his visits to Iran to report on the situation there.

(iii)  Middle East Peace Process/Terrorism

  43.  We continue to press the Iranians to take a more constructive attitude to the Middle East Peace Process, and in particular to use their influence in the region to discourage acts of violence by groups opposed to it. We remain concerned at Iranian support for such groups.

UK Presence

  44.  Our Embassy in Tehran consists of 18 UK-based staff (to be increased shortly we hope to 23 following agreement between the Foreign Secretary and Dr Kharrazi in January 2000 to a ceiling of 25) and 90.5 locally-engaged staff (including 16 labourers/gardeners and 19 guards). We hope that a British Council presence, aimed primarily at support for educational services, will be established in Tehran very soon.

  45.  A total of six (UK based and Iranian) Embassy staff members are assigned to commercial work. The unique conditions of the market and the difficulty of gaining access to sources of accurate information mean that the section can only provide a limited service. But a major part of their work is to raise the awareness of potential commercial opportunities. Trade missions and exhibitions are a good means of developing contacts as well as to improve UK business understanding of the Iranian market. UK based staff also have the responsibility of engaging the Iranian authorities in support of British companies encountering bureaucratic obstacles, and of ensuring that business practices are fair and open.


  46.  The Embassy in Tehran received 25,000 applications for visas last year, not including applications for most kinds of student and tourist visas. Applicants for such visas are obliged to apply at neighbouring posts, given the present number of visa staff working in Tehran. We would like to have extra staff to meet the demand in full, but are constrained by the ceiling on staff numbers imposed by the Iranian authorities. The increase in the ceiling agreed in January 2000 will enable us to improve the visa service, but it is still not sufficient to match the demand. We hope that as the relationship with Iran develops the ceiling will be relaxed, enabling us to offer a full visa service.

29 September 2000

Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  By letter dated 20 March 2000, the Clerk to the Foreign Affairs Committee sought a note from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the use of punishments such as amputations in Iran following an article on this subject in the Sunday Times of 12 March.


  Most of the punishments referred to in the article are Hudud punishments (amputations, executions etc) and still occur in Iran. Hudud punishments are allowed under Sharia law, which forms the basis of the Iranian legal system, as well as the legal systems of some other countries in the region. The latest report of the UN Commission for Human Rights Special Representative for Iran, Maurice Copithorne quoted an Iranian newspaper report from July 1999 that 21 men had been sentenced to amputation of fingers over a two week period, and reports of other Hudud punishments.

  Our concern at these types of punishment, and other human rights issues in Iran, have been brought home to Iranian Ministers and officials. The Secretary of State has discussed human rights on each of the three occasions that he has met his Iranian counterpart, Dr Kharrazi. On 6 March the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, Peter Hain, raised human rights with Deputy Foreign Minister Sarmadi.

  We also work closely on human rights issues with our EU partners. A major part of this cooperation is the tabling of twice yearly UN resolutions on the human rights situation in Iran, the most recent of which was adopted by the United Nationals General Assembly on 17 December 1999 and called on Iran to take the necessary steps to end the use of torture, the practice of amputation, stoning and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments. A further EU-sponsored resolution is currently being prepared for consideration at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in April.

  The video referred to in the "Sunday Times" article contains footage from 1985 and 1991 and was edited and circulated by the National Council for the Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella organisation in which the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO) is the dominant group. The MKO wages a terrorist campaign inside Iran from its bases in Iraq. As Mr Hain recently said in an answer to a written PQ the background and methods of the MKO/NCRI do not permit them to speak with authority on democracy or human rights. But the nature of the source of this information does not make the practices described any more acceptable or de-bar us from raising them with the Iranians.

April 2000

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